A Research Paper By David Peterson, Optimization Coach, CANADA
Organizations Undergo Optimization Projects
When organizations undergo optimization projects, it creates an atmosphere of fear and stress for employees and employers alike. Most organizations embark on optimization projects focused on efficiency vs. effectiveness. The majority of those projects have business cases where the immediate success of cutting expenses and increasing profitability reduces the number of FTE (Full Time Equivalent) staff.
Employees impacted by these projects often feel that their employers have no heart in these situations and are focused primarily on the dollars saved vs. the value they bring. Executives in organizations think their hands are tied and thus do very little to change that perspective. They want a positive outcome, but the views, strategies, and mindsets needed to support this transition require development. Most consulting firms that work with organizations to create those business cases focus on the bottom line of dollars saved vs. dollars to grow.
The executives are also not provided with the tools or opportunities to implement transformational projects of this nature successfully. As a result, organizational goals are affected and hampered by the motivation and strategies of employees who fear these changes may result in unemployment. Added to this is the frustration executives experience trying to achieve success with the same fears that they may also be on the chopping block. Executives are now placed in a position of delivering results for senior C-Level management while trying to manage the fears and stress of their teams connected to their success and their own worries and the anxiety of not delivering.
Faced with the anticipation of possible redundancy, employees put themselves under even more pressure to perform. They create strategies to save their job as they face an unrealized threat of unemployment head-on without any support. Some of these strategies can negatively affect them and the organization.
For example, an employee who is faced with the possible threat of redundancy may take on extra responsibilities to demonstrate their value to the organization and increase their chance of being retained. Sometimes, this can backfire, causing stress and burnout for the employee and taking time away from their primary duties.
It is essential to understand that employees often find themselves making difficult decisions when it comes to saving their job. Organizations that provide coaching to their employees during these times offer their executives and their teams an opportunity to manage fears and stress. Coaching creates an avenue for them to process, adapt and find new methods to thrive in the changing environment and learn new skills.
A few common themes exist in similar situations. Organizations want their employees to feel empowered and confident but often don’t know how to handle these situations when meeting financial objectives seems heartless but necessary for the entire company to grow and stay competitive. Coaching enables employees to shift into a growth mindset to find their optimism at all levels.
This first and vital step for organizations gives employees control over their actions; it lets them choose how they make decisions about their future.
It allows them to take the second step. When employees have options, they have the flexibility to explore how they can contribute to the organization and demonstrate their value. When it comes to coaching, coaches are there for employees at all levels, including management.
Below are some areas where coaching can bring value to employees during these projects.
- Identify any barriers which prevent them from achieving their full potential.
- Create a trusted space and freedom to explore ideas in tackling challenges.
Coaching increases team members’ engagement, which may boost employee morale and decrease turnover rates among existing staff members who already work well with their colleagues inside the company. Coaching is vital during transformational projects that span a couple of years and require the retention of valuable employees during uncertain times.
Organizations need to provide an environment where employees at all levels feel supported and appreciated when they face redundancy – because it’s crucial for them to feel valued by their employer. It’s like any other relationship – if both parties meet expectations, then there is mutual interest in seeing each other through difficult times.
Optimization coaching is designed to work with individuals to achieve their purpose and bring value to their environment, empowering them, especially when their organizations embark on transformational optimization projects.
What Is an Optimization Project?
An optimization project is an act, process, or methodology of making something (such as a design or system) perfect, functional, or effective. Most organizations that embark on these projects do so because the current process either takes too long or requires more employees than necessary. Customers want quick solutions that cost less. Organizations strive to provide effective solutions that are cost-effective and deliver value to their shareholders.
For example, an organization would like to optimize its structure and various departments to be more effective and competitive.
If each letter of the word OPTIMIZATION represented a department, it would have twelve departments. In this example, each department in this company has several hundred employees.
Four of those departments are similar to existing departments: I, T, I, and O.
In a large organization that has grown over time, acquired other organizations, been part of an acquisition, and amalgamated some departments, having four departments with people working on similar job functions is not unusual.
When organizations have completed their optimization journey, the transformation and restructuring may change how people interact with each other and how work and information flow. It may look more complicated visually, but the reality is that these similar departments will experience growth and contraction simultaneously.
Optimization is a complicated and unpleasant process, full of confusion and fear. It’s difficult to predict the effects of employee restructuring. The nature of a particular business will determine the changes that need to be made. Just as every business is different, every business restructuring is different during optimization.
The effects of restructuring due to optimization on employees vary for each individual. Some people suffer from work-related stress. Some might feel jaded and depressed about their jobs; others might be more enthusiastic and motivated to do a better job. Some people might leave their jobs, while others might stay. The effects of restructuring on employees, as we can see, are far and wide for each person.
Businesses are constantly evolving, but it can be scary to make changes to a company that could affect executive leaders and employees. With coaching, the fear and disempowerment of these changes are transformed, creating a positive atmosphere for everyone in the organization during significant change by working with them to bring about confidence and regain empowerment.
Research has found that when employees feel they are at risk of being fired, they are inclined to perform below their potential, leading to high employee turnover rates. This creates a negative cycle where employees noticing the slip in their own performance feel they may be misjudged based on their current performance, which increases stress levels and further exacerbates their fears.
However, it has been found that if the fear is replaced with a sense of control or ownership over their own performance, the employees’ performance improves significantly. A lack of control over their work-life is also a common factor among those who fear losing their jobs due to redundancy. They may feel insecure knowing they can’t control the decision-making process and will thus become less productive as they lose their sense of control.
Fear of redundancy is a common phenomenon in organizations, not only during optimization projects. With technological advancements and changing roles and responsibilities, many employees are keenly aware that redundancy may affect their careers as the landscape is constantly evolving. These employees do not want to go through the pain of redundancy and thus may avoid taking up new positions or even stop working altogether. Employees have become reluctant to take up new positions with higher salaries and benefits in such cases. They are afraid that they would be placed in jobs with less responsibility and less control over their career choice.
Fear of redundancy is a form of anxiety. It’s about the unknown, about being left behind and not having any control over your fate. Employees may be afraid to reach for their phone to go to new meetings because they think that if they do that, they’ll be exposed to redundancy on that call or meeting. They may also be afraid to take a vacation to ease the stress of being left behind.
By understanding and recognizing what employees may be going through is a product of fear, organizations can look towards coaching to disempower fear and empower confidence, managing the workplace to create an environment where these fears aren’t allowed to play out in your team.
The impact of redundancy fears in employees on their performance is complex. Employees afraid of being made redundant are more likely to be less productive than those not scared of being made redundant.
Fear can also affect work-related decision-making, and in most cases, fear can cause significant delays in making decisions. Fear plays a significant role in the performance of employees. It can lead to a decline in employee productivity and motivation, which may negatively affect other areas of the organization not even affected by the change. Employees worried about being let go or demoted may neglect their duties to create a sense of justification for failure, thus hurting the business performance and reputation. Employees are most afraid when there is a great deal of uncertainty about their future.
When employees feel uncertain if they can complete all the assigned tasks, they may stop working for several days or even work in a partial capacity for some time. Affecting the performance of employees and makes them experience severe burnout.
The fear of redundancy is linked with anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, agoraphobia, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), making it difficult for employees to concentrate on work and leading them to experience problems at work such as poor concentration and reduced motivation.
Redundancy is the fear that one’s position will be taken away from them instead of another individual, which sometimes creates a hostile environment where employees compete for the same job. The impact fear has on both individuals and organizations aggravates and adds to increasing stress levels.
When employees are in a stressful mental state, their minds don’t function at the highest level possible, which can lead to various issues at work and issues related to health. The stress of a potential job redundancy can be crippling to employees.
Employees find various methods to reduce stress in work and life. Work-life balance is something many employees strive to achieve. Not achieving this balance due to optimization projects in organizations where changes could result in the redundancy of positions creates another aspect of stress that needs to be managed. When the stress of work leaks into life, an employee’s life gets stressful to the point where some employees take an approach of forgetting about all of their responsibilities at work as a method to cope with stress, others take up hobbies like drawing, painting, writing, running, or even baking. Whatever the hobby, employees, are looking to find success in these activities as a method to manage and cope with their stress.
Reducing stress is a critical aspect of any organization and taking steps to empower employees demonstrates care, respect, and value. Stress has become an increasingly common problem in organizations working to beat the competition and demonstrate value to shareholders, and corporate reorganizations have also become the norm.
Fortunately, there are various methods organizations can use to manage stress, and one of the more effective methods is coaching. By providing an opportunity for employees to get a coach, organizations empower them with a choice that builds confidence and puts them in the driving seat to control their lives in what may appear to be uncontrollable situations.
Organizations that provide coaches demonstrate that they care about their employees and partner with them by providing them with the necessary support to empower them for their future.
The opportunity to have a coach to talk within a professional capacity provides an unbiased support structure that is empowering and objective. They are working with them for them to find the best solution to their unique situation. Having a coach to partner with to provoke them to think and grow from the opportunity presented gives everyone that is part of this change the ability to be the best, feel confident, regain control of their life and feel empowered.
Organizations can utilize an optimized approach to creating opportunities for empowerment during optimization projects.
“Optimization” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster
NLP with Purpose – The Statistics of Coaching
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.